MSDN content is also available as a Web service


Unless you've been living under a rock, by now you know about MSDN's low bandwidth view (aka ScriptFree) and lightweight view. But there are other views too, like PDA view (for when you want to look up MSDN documentation on your phone?), Robot view, printer-friendly view, unstyled HTML view... (See that first link above for more details.)

But in addition to all the views, you can go directly to the back-end that drives all the data: The MSDN/TechNet Publish System (MTPS) Content Service. With that interface, you can request the back-end data and format it any way you like. Here's an MSDN Magazine article which builds a documentation viewer, and the author of that article also developed a command-line tool which returns the content as a man page. (Update: Looks like the command-line tool no longer exists. Sorry, all you retro-heads out there.)

Comments (19)
  1. Anonymous says:

    The tool may have disappeared, but thanks to the internet, an archive of it's source code: http://www.koders.com/info.aspx

  2. Anonymous says:

    On blogs.msdn.com/…/launching-low-bandwidth-loband-v1-and-new-ide-view.aspx the link to the robot view is broken (the closing parenthesis is not contained in the link and it should be).

  3. Anonymous says:

    What are the terms of service?

    Would it for example be legal to create an Eclipse plugin that fetches documentation from the online MSDN?

    How about crawling the service for offline use, à la the Platform SDK? Is that okay? Is there a way to get a list pages changed since a certain date?

    [Welcome, Slashdot readers! Man, if only there were a link near the top of the MTPS documentation called "Terms of Use" that would be awesome. -Raymond]
  4. Anonymous says:

    I wish there was script-free version of blogs.msdn.com/…/oldnewthing. The poor IE7 on a 1.6 GHz laptop just freezes for a few seconds, one processor pegged at 100%, while loading its home page. Although this is more IE7 problem, on many other sites.

  5. Anonymous says:

    @Raymond: If only such documents would contain common use words such as "bandwidth" or "number of open connections". That would be awesome!

    Do I now belong in the slashdot crowd? :~

  6. Anonymous says:

    Wow, I can't believe the awesomeness of how awesome this is! Must code now …

    About the Terms of Use: Where I come from, things left unspecified are usually limited only by the local laws. And considering Microsoft's continual phobia of BitTorrent for downloads, I assume they don't care about bandwidth.

  7. Anonymous says:

    msdnman sounds awesome, does anyone have an archived copy?

  8. Anonymous says:

    @peterchen: I'm not sure that bandwidth or "number of open connections" qualify as common use words (particularly in legal documents).  Anyway, the terms of service cover bandwidth abuse in the following clauses – no hard numbers given, just that you're not allowed to cause problems and they can cut you off for whatever reason:

    ==================================

    "You may not use the Services in any manner that could damage, disable, overburden, or impair any Microsoft server, or the network(s) connected to any Microsoft server, or interfere with any other party's use and enjoyment of any Services"

    "Microsoft reserves the right to terminate your access to any or all of the Communication Services at any time, without notice, for any reason whatsoever."

    ==================================

    On the other hand, the terms of service also say that you will not use "any material or information, including images or photographs, which are made available through the Services in any manner that infringes any copyright". I wonder if the fact that Microsoft has made the MTPS service available is enough of an implicit permission to use their copyrighted MSDN materials.  I'd assume so, but I don't know to what extent.

  9. Anonymous says:

    “I wonder if the fact that Microsoft has made the MTPS service available is enough of an implicit permission to use their copyrighted MSDN materials.  I'd assume so, but I don't know to what extent.”

    That is probably covered under “PERSONAL AND NON-COMMERCIAL USE LIMITATION.” Wouldn't it be awesome if Terms of Use documents would STOP SHOUTING?

  10. Anonymous says:

    Good news, everyone! I found the codez for msdnman at http://www.koders.com/info.aspx

    Have fun downloading every single file separately.

  11. Anonymous says:

    @Hubert, it wasn't fun, but here you go people :

    code.google.com/…/msdnman

  12. Anonymous says:

    Also, I need coffee, since that was mentioned in the freakin' first comment.

    *argh*

  13. Anonymous says:

    [I am not a lawyer. That'll teach me to point people at something neat I found. -Raymond]

    I think you could ignore such coments and write simple note like "any legalities or problems with this neat nice thing shall be directed at proper team… (or laywers)" and just c&p it

  14. Anonymous says:

    @non-slashdotter: "On the other hand, the terms of service also say that you will not use "any material or information, including images or photographs, which are made available through the Services in any manner that infringes any copyright". I wonder if the fact that Microsoft has made the MTPS service available is enough of an implicit permission to use their copyrighted MSDN materials.  I'd assume so, but I don't know to what extent."

    Try the common sense one – use the materials for reference. However, don't use it as a way to scrape the contents of MSDN and publish it as a book you own, or basically copy it all and put it in some program that you sell as an offline reference. You can write the program, but your users have to download the content themselves since you can't distribute.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Raymond, you assume too much. I had checked the general MSDN terms, but apart from a little bit of vague language (already pointed out) and some conditions on what you can do with the MSDN documentation *content*, it keeps pretty silent on (pull). Also, (pull) obviously doesn't contain a link to terms, so I'm still wondering. Are there no terms of service beyond the law, or can I just not find them?.

    [I am not a lawyer. That'll teach me to point people at something neat I found. -Raymond]
  16. Anonymous says:

    @non-slashdotter: I wss trying some tongue-in-cheeck, obviously I failed.

  17. Anonymous says:

    This is all very nice but wake me up when F1 on CreateFile does not take me to CAtlTransactionManager::CreateFile.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Just tried the PDA view.

    Works, but sometimes when you click a link you'll get a still a desktop page (e.g. managing profile):

    l9pnga.bay.livefilestore.com/…/MSDN-PDA-View.png

  19. Anonymous says:

    what about local user-friendly version? It doesn't exist any more

    Don't be helpless. It's not installed by default but it's still there. -Raymond]

Comments are closed.